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On minimum quality in typeface design

Gerry Leonidas
November 29, 2014

On minimum quality in typeface design

Lecture delivered at the 5th Encontro de Tipografia, Barcelos, Portugal

Gerry Leonidas

November 29, 2014

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  1. 5ET | 29 November 2014 On minimum quality 

    typeface design 
 Gerry Leonidas
  2. [start with an observation about 
 the car industry in

    the 1970s] This talk will cover three 
 notions, one argument, 
 and one call to action.
  3. 1 industry and ownership 2 value and visibility 3 information

    and quality > trends, genre, and creativity > some intentions to act
  4. Industry and ownership

  5. A comparison of type-making technologies, with a comment on the

 shift from manufacturing processes with dedicated equipment to knowledge professions with generic capital equipment.
  6. Linotype & Machinery Type Drawing Office

  7. Joana Correia’s workspace

  8. A comment on the economics 
 of early DTP equipment

  9. None
  10. Discussion of “objects” that embody IP. Story of Linotype’s conversion

    to a rights holder, and Monotype’s transition to a digital services company.
  11. None
  12. When industries open up, 
 existing ideas about ownership 

    and contribution change. First notion
  13. Value and visibility

  14. None
  15. None
  16. Comments on the disembodiment 
 of type, and the difficulties

    of identifying reliable representations of a typeface
  17. font-making environments 
 are commoditised

  18. the marginal cost 
 of a new font 

    to zero
  19. The added value of design 
 is redefined away from

 visible acts of practice Second notion
  20. Information and quality

  21. Discussing “how to evaluate quality?” 
 in relation to the

    range of possible 
  22. baby, these curves make me think naughty thoughts

  23. baby,  these  curves     make  me  think    

    naughty  thoughts baby, these curves make me think naughty thoughts baby, these curves make me think naughty thoughts baby, these curves make me think naughty thoughts baby, these curves make me think naughty thoughts baby, these curves make me think naughty thoughts baby, these curves make me think naughty thoughts
  24. A typeface does not contain 
 enough information 

    explain itself. Third notion
  25. A typeface can only be evaluated 
 in relation to

    a context 
 that is external to anything that identifies the typeface as itself.
  26. 1 Ownership and contribution 
 change with the means of

    making. 2 Value of design is disembodied.
 3 Evaluation relies on context. Recap
  27. Trends, genres, and creativity Extending the discussion

  28. SCH: …almost anything is possible 
 if a good argument

    is provided,[…] if the design is not among the accepted conventions of the moment possibly it will be in the future (or not) (A student question)
  29. The rules for evaluation are determined by context. Starting point,

  30. These rules aren't linear: 
 they apply with a force

 is analogous to the deviation 
 from the convention.
  31. Then let’s assume that we can represent them as points

    in a coordinate space (this is oversimplifying, but imagining more than two dimensions is tricky): they will form a cloud that is fairly dense. The strength of the patterns for new typefaces that do a comparable job will be very weak near the centre of the cloud, and progressively stronger as you move away.
  32. So, if Minion is at the centre, then Cardea 

    is a little bit further out (so the designer can make it individual but it still is a “comfortably readable typeface for prose 
 in Northern Europe”, and Capucine is 
 going too far.
  33. None
  34. Cardea Minion Capucine

  35. This “context cloud” shifts slowly, across genres.

  36. [Oversimplifying] Conventions develop slowly, gradually populated by a cloud of

 Imagine a cloud moving slowly from an “old-style / transitional serifs” position 
 to a “low-contrast slabs” position, to a “modulated sans” position over twenty 
 or thirty years, as peoples’ reading habits evolve.
  37. > trends > genres > motivators > outliers

  38. Redefining trends of use; genres of typefaces for specific uses;

    motivator typefaces that shift genres to contribute to a trend; and outlier typefaces, that may generate spikes of attention, and enable other typefaces to act as motivators
  39. So how to judge quality beyond 
 genre, purpose, and

  40. We can set “objective” criteria 
 for well-formed shapes, spaces,

 and behaviours.
  41. /gerryleonidas

  42. Reminder of criteria for type reviews, 
 which are embedded

    in a previous presentation in Warsaw
  43. Pointers for typeface reviews (1/3): > fit of typeset text

    within the brief > key dimensions within the body > stroke thickness range > balance of key strokes and space 
 within and between letters
  44. Pointers for typeface reviews (2/3): > stroke modulation > in/out

    stroke recipes > alignments in H and V axes > transitions between letter elements
  45. Pointers for typeface reviews (3/3): > relating of inner and

    outer strokes > letter shapes within key patterns > integration of exceptions
  46. How do we support this 
 on a global scale?

  47. Verdana and Georgia (1996) embody 
 Microsoft’s first moves away

 print. The  ClearType  fonts (2003)    represented 
 a  bet  in portable, flat  screens.
  48. Adobe’s Source Sans Pro 
 and Serif Pro are just

    notable examples in a very long line 
 of fonts that set baselines.
  49. We have a plan to make available 
 online a

    series of resources to support people who want to start learning 
 about typeface design
  50. Two phases: > Typeface and typeform 
 fundamentals > Design

    for typographic setting
  51. - Key properties of text typefaces - Shapes contributing to

    homogeneity / individuality - Key proportions in the lowercase - Stroke thickness as a unit of measurement - Balancing key strokes and space - Stroke modulation and transitions to vertical strokes - In- and outstroke recipes - Optical alignments in the horizontal axis - Patterns and exceptions in lettershapes - Dimensions within and across cases
  52. - Setting parameters from a typographic brief - Body sizing

    for paragraph setting - Case differentiation for different briefs - Family composition planning - Mapping families to CSS weights - Planning weights and styles within paragraphs - Planning weights and styles for editorial typography - Planning weights and styles for complex texts
  53. What next? Closing comments

  54. Thank you, and get in touch @gerryleonidas @typefacedesign reading.ac.uk/typography typefacedesign.net